Notices prepared for posting on the UConn Physics Department web page under the announcements section.

Upcoming visit by Dr. Sylvester James Gates

The University of Connecticut Department of Physics is pleased to announce the upcoming colloquium by Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr. on November 18th in Gant West 002 from 3:30-4:45PM. Dr. Gates is a theoretical high-energy physicist who has made significant, pioneering contributions to supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. His colloquium will concern the ongoing efforts to construct a mathematical foundation for supersymmetry (SUSY).

Alongside the colloquium, there will be additional events during Dr. Gates’s visit, organized by the Physics Diversity and Multiculturalism Committee with help from the Physics Graduate Student Association:

  • Undergraduate and graduate physics students are encouraged to attend a lunch meet and greet with Dr. Gates from 12:15 to 1:15 pm in Gant South room 117, where pizza will be provided.
  • Students, postdocs, and faculty from all departments are all encouraged to attend a DEI panel discussion: “Bringing Diversity into the Physical Sciences,” featuring Dr. Gates as well as faculty from multiple departments in CLAS at UConn. The panel will take place in Gant South rooms 117 and 119 from 1:30 to 2:30 pm.

List of Panelist Speakers: 

  • Prof. Jim Gates – Clark Leadership Chair in Science, Distinguished University Professor and Regents Professor, University of Maryland

  • Prof. Ronald Mallett – Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, Department of Physics 

  • Prof. Nora Berrah – Professor, Physics Department 

  • Prof. Amy Howell – Professor, Chemistry Department 

  • Prof. Marisa Chrysochoou – Professor and Department Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 

  • Prof. Masha Gordina – Professor, Department of Mathematics 

Professor Gates Bio:

Gates received Bachelor of Science degrees in both physics and mathematics and a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. At the University of Maryland, he became the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major U.S. research university. Gates is the past president of the American Physical Society (APS), a role to which he was elected in 2019. He has received numerous awards and accolades, including the 2013 Mendel Medal and the 2013 National Medal of Science from former President Barack Obama. In 2013, he was also elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming its first African American theoretical physicist recognized in its 150-year-old history. He also served on former President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In addition, Gates has just been named as the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Oersted Medal, presented by the AAPT in honor of his outstanding leadership and impact in physics education.

Dr. Gates was until very recently the Theoretical Physics Center Director, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, and Affiliate Mathematics Professor at Brown University. He has since moved back to Maryland where he is the Clark Leadership Chair in Science, Distinguished University Professor and Regents Professor at the University of Maryland.

UConn Physics welcomes two new faculty in quantum science

This year, the Department of Physics proudly welcomes two new faculty members.

Pavel Volkov
Prof. Pavel Volkov

Pavel Volkov joins the Department of Physics as an assistant professor. He is a condensed matter physicist, specializing in the theory of strongly correlated and quantum materials. He earned his Ph.D. at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany, followed by a postdoc at Rutgers University. His work covers topics such as superconductivity, frustrated magnetism, ferroelectricity, and materials with nontrivial topology, often inspired by new experimental discoveries made around the world. During this academic year, Pavel will be on leave at Harvard University, working on the theory of two-dimensional Moiré materials, created by stacking single-atomic layers. He also enjoys mentoring students at all levels and bringing cutting-edge science into the classroom.


Lea Santos
Prof. Lea Ferreira dos Santos

Lea Ferreira dos Santos joins the Department of Physics as a full professor. She earned her Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, Michigan State University, and Dartmouth College. She then took a position at Yeshiva University for 15 years, where she climbed the ranks to full professor and chair of the Department of Physics. Her research on many-body quantum systems has been continuously funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). It influences a broad range of disciplines across condensed matter, atomic physics, and quantum information science. Her awards include the Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics, Outstanding Referee for the American Physical Society, NSF CAREER Award, and member of the U.S. delegation to the 3rd IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics.

Welcome, Lea and Pavel!

NSF award to Profs. Jain and Sochnikov

Professors Jain and Sochnikov received NSF research grant entitled “New Quantum Elastocaloric Demagnetization Refrigeration for the Millikelvin Range”. A major focus of their research will be the cooling of quantum chips. For this purpose, their teams will study ‘spin liquids’, which can be harnessed to achieve millikelvin temperatures without magnetic fields. At such low temperatures, quantum phase transitions drive cryocooling. This research uses novel techniques to induce and tune these types of phase transitions. In the future, this research will transform our ability to build energy-efficient, large-scale quantum computers.

Prof. Jain is organizing International Workshop on Oxide Electronics

Associate Professor of Physics Menka Jain and the Institute of Materials Science is co-organizing a workshop-28th International Workshop on Oxide Electronics (IWOE) in Maine next month. The IWOE series has become an important venue to discuss recent advances and emerging trends in this developing field. The aim of the workshop is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for researchers – theorists as well as experimentalists – on understanding the fundamental electronic and structural properties and also on the design, synthesis, processing, characterization, and applications of (epitaxial) functional oxide materials. Results of critical scientific importance as well as studies revealing the technological potential of functional oxide thin films to create devices with enhanced performance will be showcased. The other committee members are:

Dr. Jain designed the logo of the workshop as well.

The full abstract book of the talks and posters can be found at

50th anniversary of annual physics department Mt. Monadnock hike

This coming October we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the first hike up Mt. Monadnock by the Physics Department. We plan to hike Saturday, October 8th. Because the park recommends reservations, we will make reservations for a large group. Alumni are welcome and should contact Tom Blum or Alex Kovner as soon as possible to secure a parking spot. We’re also collecting pictures from past hikes for a slide show during the colloquium on Friday, October 7th. We hope to see you come October!

Department head greeting







Dear Friends of UConn Physics,

Probably the biggest event in the physics world this past year was the successful launch and early data taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It’s not just pretty pictures – the far infrared capabilities allow for the measurement of the most redshifted, thus most distant and earliest, galaxies in the universe and the infrared spectroscopy capabilities allow for the detection of specific gasses, like water, about distant exoplanets. Our astronomy group at UConn is fully involved with four professors (Profs. Trump, Battersby, Angles-Alcazar, and Faesi) participating in 15 separate first-year observation programs. Jonathan Trump has already written his first JWST paper on the chemical enrichment of the earliest universe. Jon has found that the production of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium proceeded more quickly than had been thought. For Jon’s paper, see A list of UConn-JWST-related links is available in a separate article in this newsletter.

Several of our faculty earned accolades. Tom Blum received the UConn Alumni Faculty Excellence Award in Research and Creativity. This is a career award, with a major element Tom’s contribution of new techniques for calculating the magnetic moment of the muon – the well-known g-2 result where the combination of experiment and calculation has now, for the first time, shown the inadequacy of the standard model. Cara Battersby received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. This is one of the most important awards available to new-career scientists. Cara won for her proposal to study turbulence in the center of our galaxy coupled with a project to create astronomy-related lesson plans for use in under-resourced high schools. Both of these awards, along with several other impressive accomplishments, are described in the articles in this newsletter.

Another major theme of the year is turnover and renewal. This year saw the retirement of Professor Lanny Brooks from the Hartford campus, Professor Juha Javaneinen, and Professor Philip Mannheim. We hosted colloquia on the career accomplishments of Philip, Juha, and 2020 retiree Phil Gould. From Philip’s colloquium, beyond the notable highlights of his own career, we learned of the ultimately unsuccessful attempts to develop a mathematical career for his Liverpool high school classmate – one Paul McCartney. Also leaving us this year were Financial Assistant Anna Huang and Lab Technician Zac Transport. While we miss all of them, we have had tremendous renewal as well. We have nine new staff/faculty hires in the department. These are:

  • Professor Lea Ferreira dos Santos – a theorist specializing in quantum chaos and many body systems.
  • Assistant Professor Pavel Volkov – a theorist specializing in engineerable quantum materials.
  • Assistant Professor in Residence Sylvanie Wallington has joined our Stamford campus.
  • Assistant Professor in Residence Asli Tandogan Kunkel has joined our Hartford campus.
  • Aislinn Daniels has joined as a Laboratory Technician.
  • Kaitlin Gorman has joined the main office as a Financial Assistant.
  • Robert Shamirian has also joined the main office as a Financial Assistant.
  • In addition, anyone calling into the department office may speak with Victoria Rosado has been working in our main office since May to cover for Carrie Cichocki while out on maternity leave.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone that we are having our first in-person public event since the pandemic hit. On September 23rd we will host Professor Donna Strickland, Nobel Laureate 2018, for the Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture. Prof. Strickland was scheduled to give this talk in March 2020 but was the first event that we canceled due to the pandemic. It seems fitting that this long-delayed lecture will now serve as a reopening. I urge you all to come to Storrs for the event, hear a fascinating talk, reconnect with your old professors, and let us know what you are up to now.

Best wishes to all,

Barry Wells
Physics Department Head

Prof. Jonathan Trump Interviews about the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope released its first science observations on July 12 with much fanfare and excitement across the globe. UConn Physics Professor Jonathan Trump is part of the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science collaboration that was awarded some of the first observations on the transformative new space telescope.

Prof. Trump was interviewed by several local media outlets, including NPR CT, WILI AM, and the Waterbury Republican-American, about the new James Webb Space Telescope observations and his research goals for the telescope. UConn Today also featured a story about the early JWST observations and scientific findings produced by Prof. Trump’s research collaboration.

Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Donna Strickland , Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Connecticut, Department of Physics, is proud to announce that on September 23, 2022, Professor Donna Strickland of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo will be presenting the 2020 Distinguished Katzenstein Lecture. Prof. D. Strickland Prof. Strickland is one of the recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York State. Together they paved the way for the most intense laser pulses ever created. The research has several applications today in industry and medicine, including the cutting of a patient’s cornea in laser eye surgery and the machining of small glass parts for use in cell phones.

Prof. Strickland earned a Bachelor in Engineering from McMaster University and a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester. She was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She received the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award and the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester.

Prof. Strickland served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). She is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, is in the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, and holds numerous honorary doctorates.

Prof. Cara Battersby Awarded an NSF CAREER grant

Cara Battersby CAREER AwardProfessor Cara Battersby has been awarded an NSF CAREER grant! “The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Prof. Battersby’s CAREER Award is entitled “CAREER: Shining STARs Amidst the Turbulence” and is an ambitious project to complete the first-ever systematic study of turbulence in an extreme environment, the center of our galaxy. Turbulence is poorly understood yet plays a pivotal role in the setting the Initial Mass Function (IMF), which underpins all of modern astrophysics. The results from this research will be brought into under-resourced high school classrooms through lesson plans jointly developed by K-12 teachers and undergraduate students from traditionally under-represented groups. Battersby aims to recruit and retain students from under-represented groups in STEM through a new mentorship program UConn-STARs.